May 9, 2022
Little Bear Springs Camp at mile 285.6 to Deep Creek Hot Springs at mile 307.9
When I asked Andy last night what time he thought we should leave this morning, he shrugged and said, “It’s a wake up whenever you want kind of morning.” Knowing him, I thought this meant that he’d be up and out by 6. But when I wake up at 5:45, hardly anyone is moving. I take a trip to the privy, come back, and all is still quiet.
An idea strikes me. I pull out my stove and boil a cup of water for coffee. It feels so luxurious, like I’m doing something wrong. Coffee in the morning? Breakfast before I pack up my tent? What is this, the Appalachian Trail? I am LIVING. My coffee is piping hot, and it makes my cold Bobo Bar taste like heaven. Beetle asks me to boil some water for him, and I oblige. I finish my coffee and make myself a hot tea. The luxury!
I finish my tea. It’s 7 by now, and it feels like it’s time to start moving. I start packing up, and Andy pops out of his tent. He really meant it when he said he was sleeping in! The sun hits the valley and it feels beautifully warm. We start walking just before 8. I’m caffeinated, hydrated, rested, sunscreened, and ready for another smooth cruise of a day.
That’s exactly what it is: cruising. Andy and I enjoy an absolute breeze of a morning, winding through forest, rock formations, and ridge lines. We talk about hiking in England and Harry Potter and the sensation of not wanting a book to end. The trail dips down to a creek, where we run into DLT, Beetle, and Rob, plus some other hikers we’ve been traveling around for the past few days. We get a bit of water, then continue in that valley before going up onto a ridge again, catching DLT and Rob and walking with them until the beautiful beach by the Deep Creek Bridge. We set our packs down and have a chill lunch here with a huge group of hikers. Beetle and Spice go in the water, even though it’s windy and cold. I, on the other hand, take a nap in the sun.
I go ahead for a while after lunch and locate a precarious pee spot behind a bush. Then my tramily and I, plus the other group we’ve been hiking with, starts walking together to the 300 mile mark. I talk to Mouse for a bit as we walk. It’s nice to chat with some new folks, but our group now is kind of a 7-person mega-cluster walking down the side of this precarious ledge, and it starts to get a little overwhelming after a while. Soon, we reach the 300 mile mark. It’s right in the middle of the trail, and the boys and I try to arrange ourselves around it for a suitable picture. We succeed, but in the process, Beetle falls over like a turtle, resulting in some excellent photos by Spice. 300 miles! I can’t believe we’re already so far.
I stay with the whole group for a bit longer until it inevitably starts to splinter. I’m with Beetle and Andy for a bit, then Spice, DLT, and I sit on a very nice bench, and I end up walking with DLT and Rob for a few miles to another water source. It is a beautiful golden evening following the gorge of Deep Creek high above on a ledge. DLT asks some of his characteristic good questions, such as: “You can have three taps in your house: Hot water, cold water, and something else. What do you pick for the third tap?” (Iced tea. The answer is iced tea.)
Soon we come upon the rest of the group at the next water source, a deep, beautiful creek spotted with huge round boulders. I filter a couple of liters and then walk with Andy, DLT, and Beetle for the rest of the way to camp. It’s another few miles of cruising, just enjoying being together in the cool evening.
Before long we end up on a sandy slope above the Deep Creek Hot Springs. Technically, you’re not supposed to camp here, but there are so many good campsites and already a few people set up. We’re just calling it a day. I get my tent pitched and then join my friends in one of the hot pools above the river. It is magisterial. It is steaming and relaxing and right. We lounge there in the hot water as the light fades. Eventually, everyone gets out and the peer pressure induces me to do the same. I take a quick dip in the river to wash off the hot spring nasties and then hurry up the hill to my tent to change out of my wet clothes.
Dinner is a circle on the sand, red headlamps and laughter next to the river. DLT and I stay up for a while talking, and then I head to bed. The sound of the creek is a sweet lull in the darkness.
This trail is amazing.